Soul and Gene
Photo: Dr M Westerlund
How soul mind and genes interact
We not only are what we eat, but we are also very much what we experience. Consciousness, living, sleeping and dreaming are very closely related on a macro- and micro level. Everything you experience affects not only your mind and soul, but also your ultimate physical tool; your body. Psychiatry today is only at the entrance of a whole new world, exploring how our experiences from daily events can trigger genes to not only produce illness but also health and healing.
Early activated genes in our body are interesting since they mediate some relationships between mind and body within an hour. We address this with psychoneuroimmunology. Psychosocial stress can turn off the early activated (interleukin-2 ) genes so that the immune system cannot communicate well. Subsequently we are much more vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Positive psychosocial experience can turn on the same gene and facilitate molecular communication, healing, and health. Intermediate genes peak within two hours, and late activated genes, might require 4 – 8 hours to reach peak levels of expression. Dreaming is our brains tool to digest our existence and help the nervous system to promote growth and healing.
Waking, sleeping and dreaming are associated with behavioural state-related gene expression. They are expressed in association with clock genes. Together these genes are involved when we experience emotions, a life crisis, despair, success or love. Other genes are more related to experience or activities. This is extremely important since vivid conscious experience can turn on genes that code for proteins that lead to neurogenesis – new neurons and connections in the brain. We call this memory and learning.
From a neuro-biological viewpoint one part of consciousness is related to the interplay between behavioural state-related and activity-dependant gene expression. Suddenly we realise that our consciousness not only observes our environment, but that it also interact with our genes. Literally we become what we think. Let’s look at how genes start producing stress-factors following an external threat, causing few physical problems but extreme fear, stress and anxiety.
Most genes require fresh protein synthesis for their expression. Immediate early genes (IEA) does not, and due to that they are activated immediately. These genes turn on target genes that generate protein synthesis for adaptive responses to stressful events, in some cases leading to anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other more long-term harmful effects on the body. A car accident without any physical injuries suddenly turns into a long lasting suffering due to these poorly understood events in our mind and soul. Within days a healthy person might become a victim of severe anxiety, fear and sleeplessness. How is that possible?
Behavioural states of consciousness are intimately related to our sense of well being. If the balance between mind and body is disturbed, we might trigger IEG of producing stress-related factors like cortisol etc. The outside world is then reflected on to the nucleus of the cell, and suddenly IEG of the cells are expressed. We are becoming sick. Ernest Lawrence Rossi has in a wonderful way in his book “The Psychobiology of Gene expression” showed us how clock-genes that monitor our health, switch on or off these events within our cells. As above as below! Some genes are activated within minutes of an accident or a disaster in our environment. Rossis following table help us to understand the interplay between mind, body and soul.
Mindfulness, meditation, touching and forms of expressing care and love becomes necessary and important in order to understand true healing. Yet today, I have witnessed mental health staff avoiding touching their patients, due to the risk of being accused of unprofessional behaviour. Being treated as a patient with mostly machines around you, treated in an incubator as a newborn or isolated due to an infectious disease, can itself complicate and actually delay recovery; all due to the fact that our minds have the potential of triggering genes to express more “stress-factors”.
Of course the scientifical world doesn’t have a need of touching, since everything is based on probabilities and chance. But I am sure most scientists love touching and feeling their families as soon as they are out of their laboratories. During hypnotherapy sessions I provide touching as a powerful tool of reinforcing communication, but then it is called therapeutic facilitation.
We now know that we have proof of how external disasters can trigger genes to activate different levels of illness. But what if we could understand how to use the mind to alter genes to heal the body? That would be the ultimate Pandoras box!